Crossroads, Part Two
By Bryn Bamber
Continued from Crossroads, Part One.
When I got on the ferry it was raining hard. When we arrived on the other side, it was sunny. I met three others on the ferry, all of us on our way to Yasodhara Ashram. We were signed up for the Young Adult Program, a month long introduction to the spiritual practices and daily life at the Ashram.
One of the Ashram residents showed us to our rooms and then down to the beach. We walked down the narrow path, chatting quietly.
As I turned the corner the lake and the sky opened up in front of me. I had been driving for days, and as I took in the view, everything that was tight inside me softened. I breathed in the lake. This was where I was meant to be.
I dove into life at the Ashram. The days were simple but full. 7 a.m. Hatha Yoga. 8 a.m. breakfast. 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. working together (Karma Yoga) tending to the garden or the grounds or cleaning rooms with a short break for lunch and to write about our day. At 8 p.m. every evening we would have the ritual of satsang.
One day for Karma Yoga, we were shoveling gravel to fill in pot holes on the road. Swami Premananda went ahead with the tractor dumping piles of gravel while the rest of us followed, raking it out. It was hot and sunny that day and I had been working hard. I wanted to show my worth as a hard worker, but was taking it too far. I was getting dizzy as I continued to shovel.
They were going to leave me alone to rake out a big swath of gravel while the rest of the workers continued up the road. I finally spoke up. I asked if someone could stay to help me.
I had never been asked to take responsibility for myself the way I was at the Ashram. It was difficult for me. I was used to proving myself as a hard worker and then having those around me take care of me. Here I was being asked to stand on my own two feet.
In some ways this was liberating and in others it was terrifying. Part way through my stay I decided it was too much. I had had enough of this taking responsibility for myself. I started planning what I would do when the month was over.
But I loved the music. There was a little band of musicians that played at satsang. As I walked away from the round, white temple one night, I noticed they continued to play even though the official service was over.
I hesitated, wanting to go back but worried I wasn’t supposed to. Finally I turned and walked back in. One of the musicians looked up at me, eyes shining. I felt welcome and singing together was beautiful.
There also were also several people who had been at the Ashram a long time who I looked up to. They seemed to have a beautiful balance of two feet planted firmly on the ground and their hearts open to mystery. I wanted that.
So, I decided to stay. I applied for a 3-month internship. Then I stayed on for the Yoga Development Course.
At the Ashram, I learned about the importance of feeling my breath in my body. I learned about the importance of spending time in nature, of making art and the importance of listening to the wind.
I also learned about my mind. One of the main teachings of the ashram is studying one’s own mind. I discovered lots of different voices up in there, many of which were quite disturbing.
At one point in my stay, there was a young woman who I was having issues with. I couldn’t stand her and I tried to figure out why. One day, as I sat under the large hazel trees and wrote about her, I realized I wanted her to shut up, I wanted her to never speak again, I wanted her to die a bloody and horrible death.
I had discovered what writers refer to as ‘first thoughts’ – the thoughts beneath the thoughts we normally think. And after years of identifying as a feminist, I had discovered inside my mind a patriarch. I quickly realized that although this part of my mind was currently aimed at the young woman, it was also quick to turn on myself.
And you may be thinking – what a horrible thing – to find such a disgusting part of yourself. But it was actually a great victory for me because it made things very clear. The part of me who wanted to be unkind to this woman and to cut her off when she was speaking was not the voice in my head I wanted to listen to. And so I started resisting the urge.
What changed for me at the Ashram? I found a beautiful and mystical connection to the wind and the earth. I started to take more responsibility for myself. I gained a better understanding of the subtle aspects of my mind.
And it wasn’t perfect. I didn’t always feel connected to the earth and it wasn’t that I never cut that young woman off again. But I felt connected more and I cut her off less.
I ended up staying at the Ashram for over two years. I hoped that I could keep the learning alive as I transitioned back into city living.
To be continued…
About Bryn Bamber
Bryn Bamber is an educator, writer and Yasodhara Yoga teacher who is obsessed with bridging the gap between dissatisfaction and the desire to live a life filled with meaning. Her writing has been published in Scratch Magazine and at brynbamber.com.
Read her other articles in Finding Yoga.
“As I turned the corner the lake and the sky opened up in front of me. I had been driving for days, and as I took in the view, everything that was tight inside me softened. I breathed in the lake. This was where I was meant to be.”
4 Responses to “Crossroads, Part Two”
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Thank you for sharing your experience so openly. Your writing took me back to my own journey at the Ashram. It is very special to feel the connection. Much light to you.
Thank you again Bryn.Your own positive experiences offer me much to look at in myself. Hari OM
It’s wonderful to read about your own unfolding, Bryn. Your conclusions on “What changed for me at the Ashram?” say a lot – about what the Ashram offers and what you allowed yourself to experience. I look forward to more.
Bryn–so great to hear your story with its challenges and victories! Appreciating the honesty of facing internal darkness in order to make choices to either stay with status quo or change. I’m also appreciating Molly Askey-Goldsbury’s illustrations for your articles. Nice combo!